Managed Services, Part 1: Making Safe, Documented, and Reliable Changes
In my first set of posts, I discussed what to consider when outsourcing a Web content management (WCM) system. Now I would like to concentrate on elaborating on hosting and managed services.
Most of you are aware of managed services—a reliable, secure, and flexible hosting service that supervises your network’s infrastructure through the cloud. An outside source or host creates, operates, and maintains the infrastructure.
Managed services includes five cores of support: change management, backup and recovery, roles and responsibilities, security, and deployment model. Each of the five cores is essential for the proper operation of managed services. I will discuss and define each core in the next five posts. Obviously, there are other things to address and consider, but for the purposes of this set of posts, I’ll center my thinking on these five themes. The first I will tackle is the notion of change management.
What Is Change Management?
During my many years as a group product marketing manager and creating go-to-market strategies for Adobe, I have discovered that businesses and managed service providers must, without question, have a full understanding of any change that is contemplated to a WCM system. During the lifetime of your system, both unplanned and planned changes occur or become necessary. For example, unplanned changes may need to occur as a result of a disaster that affects the operation of your system. Planned changes may become necessary when you want to create contingency or succession strategies.
You and your host must have a thought-out plan whenever you contemplate any change to your system. At the end of the day, you are working with an independent team from the hosting company. You need to be certain that your team and the host’s team are on the same page. You don’t want any surprises when a change of some kind becomes necessary or is requested.
To ensure that everyone is on the same page, I suggest that you create a formal structure, or protocol, prior to considering any changes. You should sit down with your host and develop a document or run book that includes:
- details of your system and the customizations that have been made;
- the individual at the hosting and managed service company responsible for change issues and how to contact him or her;
- who, how, and when individuals should be contacted on your end when a situation arises;
- details of the different use cases created for the website so the proper regression tests can be administered;
- specifics about all the user acceptance testing you’ve done so you can do those tests after changes have been made;
- information about the load and stress testing that’s been done;
- the protocol for rolling back the system if the changes made aren’t to your level of satisfaction; and
- details about your system, including hardware requirements.
You and the host also need to know how the architecture of the system is deployed as well as the key calendar dates for your system. For instance, when do you want to roll out upgrades, bug fixes, patches, etc. Do you prefer to have these done in low traffic hours in the Pacific or Eastern time zone?
You and the host must discuss these issues as you create the run book and formulate a plan to perform changes properly. When you choose a host, ask if the company has a well-thought-out change management control protocol available and then include all of your customizations.
The run book should also be supported by a board of directors at the host company that consists of representatives of departments that are responsible for changes.
Adobe’s change approval board (CAB), for example, includes representatives from engineering, IT, consulting, and customer support. Also included is the customer success engineer (CSE), who is solely responsible for communicating between the host and the company.
When a change is requested, all members of CAB are told about the request and evaluate whether it is acceptable. CAB documents the change request in the run book and compares it to other changes in the book to ensure that it complies with protocol. We walk the customer through each step. Once the change is approved, CAB takes steps to make certain that the change is performed appropriately.
You should set up your own CAB and make certain that the host you are working with has a similar structure to avoid unnecessary changes.
The bottom line is that when change to a WCM system is requested, trust the experts to determine if it is necessary and structured appropriately.
This post was previously published on the Adobe Digital Marketing blog, June 23, 2014.